Countries imposed a near-total ban on trading young elephants at a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, August 28th, after the EU agreed on a compromise over certain exceptions on trade within Europe.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) decided to tighten the rules after days of debate. The arrangement limits the sale of wild elephants caught in Zimbabwe and Botswana, much to the praise of conservationists and animal advocates.
The European Union decided to back the ban late in the day and the motion passed by 87 votes to 29, the BBC reported. Zimbabwe, who is currently the leading exporter, voted against, as did the United States.
Zimbabwe and Botswana, which have healthier elephant populations than other African nations, have been permitted to export elephants to "appropriate and acceptable" destinations.
Wildlife experts called the final agreement a "momentous win" for elephants, according to AP. The European Union voiced concerns at first and only backed the ban after limitations were added by tweaking the language of the resolution, meaning certain exceptions will still be allowed that would be relevant to Europe.
Conservationists explained the change by giving an example, saying it would allow for an elephant already in France to be shipped to nearby Germany without having to be sent back to Africa first. But the new resolution also means zoos will no longer be able to import wild-caught African elephants to the United States, China, and many other countries beyond the elephants' natural habitat.
Animal advocates applauded the move, even though it did not bring an outright ban. Audrey Delsink, wildlife director at Humane Society International, was quoted as saying: "While it is disappointing that it is not an outright ban on trade in live elephants, the new language adds vital independent oversight and scrutiny."
Delsink explained further, "The capture of wild African elephants for export to zoos and other captive facilities is incredibly traumatizing for individual elephants as well as their social groups."